WBK: Warriors upset top-seeded Westminster

(INDEPENDENCE, Mo.) “We are so hyped right now,” declared sophomore guard Cora Chan after fourth-seeded Westmont (26-6) upset top-seeded Westminster of Utah in the second round of the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship.

The Warriors advance to tomorrow’s quarterfinal match-up where they will take on second-seeded Oklahoma Baptist (27-5).

“We came with the mind set of fighting, no matter what,” said Chan. “Even though we were the underdog – they were supposed to beat us by 20 – we didn’t let that affect us. We focused on ourselves and our motto of ‘She before me,’ and played with each other – all together.”

“We knew that we were going to have to fight really hard to beat at team as good as Westminster,” said freshman forward Lauren McCoy who tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds. “They are the number one defensive team and the number one three-point percentage team in the nation. We knew we had to lockdown on their shooters and had to execute our offensive game plan. Even as good as they are, we knew that if we trusted in what we did and what our coaches have set up for us, we were going to get the looks we need.”

“I was very pleased with our attacking mentality,” said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. “We played fearlessly and with the understanding that we were going to give it all that we had. We knew we were the underdogs, but we totally believed in ourselves and what we could do.”

That faith could have been shaken when junior point guard Kristen Karr – the team’s leader in scoring (13.2 points per game) and assists (3.7 per game) – picked up her second foul just a minute and one-half into the game. Head coach Kirsten Moore immediately pulled Karr from the game and put in Chan to take her place.

On Chan’s first trip down the floor, she pulled up and nailed a three-pointer to give Westmont a 3-2 lead. The Warriors never trailed again.
Chan played more than 35 minutes of the game, scoring 13 points including eight in the first half.

“I was just being aggressive and taking whatever the defense gives me,” said Chan. “I tried to be smart on passes and who was open. Even though they took away the inside, we kept moving the ball, sticking together and made sure we had each other’s back.”

“It shows the balance and resiliency of this team,” said Moore of Chan’s performance. “This is where I feel like the growth we have made throughout this year is proving itself. We’ve had times were Esther (Lee) was hurt and Celina (Gougis) was out for a while. Cora had to step into a larger role. When Celina was out, we were playing with two point guards on the floor, so Cora was getting a ton of reps and is very comfortable leading our team. And our team is very comfortable with her.

“It’s another example of how adversity makes you strong. You never know what adversity is preparing you for. Clearly, it was preparing us for a situation that was not ideal. But we weren’t flustered at all. Krissy handled herself great and had fresh legs to come back in the second half and do great things.”

Karr and Lee each tallied 12 points for the Warriors.

The Griffins stayed close, never allowing the Warriors a double-digit lead until the final 30 seconds of the game. With just under five minutes to play, Westminster was only four points back (55-51). That’s when Chan sank her third trey of the night, giving the Warriors a 58-51 advantage.

The Griffins’ Amanda Hacking recorded a bucket to make it 58-53 with four minutes to play before Chan answered in kind to put the Warriors on top 60-53. A couple of free throws by Karr gave Westmont a nine-point advantage and the Griffins never recovered.

Westmont has just 22 hours to prepare for Saturday’s quarterfinal match-up, but from Moore’s perspective, that is a challenge, not a problem.

“We will go back to the hotel and stay up all night to make sure we have a good game plan for tomorrow,” outlined the veteran coach. “We take this one game at a time. We don’t know anything about Oklahoma Baptist – yet. We will figure it out before the sun comes up tomorrow and be able to have a great game plan for our team.

“The way we prepare our team throughout the year – having the players memorizing scouting reports – they will be able to take in a lot of information in short amount of time and be able to execute it on the floor. It sets us up to have a lot of success in a situation like this.”